Training Overview

A recruit is an entry level student of the martial art known as l`arte dell`armizare or simply as armizare. The recruit begins their training with an overview of the Academy, the key personnel, overview of the training program, and begins with instruction on the foundations of abrazare (grappling), daga (dagger) and spada (swordplay). As a recruit, the recruit is provided the opportunity to assess whether or not to pursue this form of martial art with commitment. In terms of equipment requirements, the initial cost to begin training is low in this level. At the conclusion of the recruit training, the student should not consider him/herself a fighter just yet, however, he/she will possess the necessary foundational skills to build upon and to develop those skills into sophisticated fighting techniques in the scholler level of training, and will be able to deploy some basic defensive maneuvres if required if an opportunity presents itself. Upon completing the recruit training, the program is designed so that the student is then in a position and prepared to challenge for the prize of scholler by undergoing a public scholler test in the presence of the student's peers. For more information on the rank of recruit, click here.

Training Objectives

The AEMMA training program has evolved over the last number of years based almost entirely on a system originally developed in northern Italy written by Fiore dei Liberi, a swordsmaster born in Cividale del Friuli, a small town on the river Natisone in north-east Italy sometime between 1340 - 1350, in his treatise entitled "Flos Duellatorum" or "Flower of Battle" in 1410. The recruit training program is comprised of Liberi's first three sections of the treatise, covering the foundations of grappling, dagger and arming sword. Although the recruit does not train the entire content of grappling and dagger, elements are introduced to the recruit in order for them to develop the core skills required and for which further training can be leveraged on the skills learned. The recruit training program is designed to provide a basis for students to develop foundational skills and knowledge in l`arte dell`armizare with the following training objectives: In order to achieve the above recruit training objectives, the program is characterized by eight (8) characteristics:
  1. basic fight principles,
  2. safety precautions and rules of the Salle d'Armes,
  3. warm-ups and conditioning,
  4. training discipline and culture,
  5. of abrazare, daga e spada (grappling, dagger and arming sword),
  6. training drills,
  7. sparring and fencing bouts,
  8. additional training activities.
Each of the above characteristics listed are described in more detail below. Click on the item in the list above, or scroll down.
 

Basic Fight Principles

The following briefly describes the basic fight principles that the student develops during training in order to achieve the desired martial arts performance and capabilities. These principles can be found in any modern day combat training manual [ 1 ]. For the convenience of the reader, these principles are tied back to the historical sources in purple that are used today as a basis for the recruit training program.

a) Physical Balance
This refers to the students ability to maintain his/her equilibrium and remains in a stable fight position during an engagement. This is critical for deploying a defensive maneuver or posture, and for launching an effective attack against the opponent. There are two aspects of balance that the individual must posses:

Note: Liberi describes balance and equilibrium as fortitudo (the elephant supporting a castle), one of the key attributes of a fighter. This principle is described with some detail in the sette spada page of his treatise Flos Duellatorum, 1410.

b) Mental Balance
A successful student must also maintain mental balance, focus and a presence of mind during engagements and training, in that he/she must not allow fear to overcome his/her ability to concentrate or react instinctively during an engagement.

Note: Proper reaction during engagements is the result of one's control of the engagement and setting up the fight so as to anticipate possible reactions and respond accordingly with good timing. Liberi describes another desireable attribute of a fighter as prudentia represented by a wild cat or lynx, holding a sextant or compass. The ability to anticipate the opponent's move and respond appropriately is key to being successful. This principle is described with some detail in the sette spada page of his treatise Flos Duellatorum, 1410.

c) Position
This refers to the location of the student in relation to the opponent. An important principle when being attacked is to move the body to a safe defensive position in order to prevent the student from being hurt. Then, the student would look for a counter-attack opportunity. This principle would apply in both armed and unarmed engagements. Movement to an advantageous position will require accurate timing and distance perception.

Note: Position is a combination of a number of elements that are best described by George Silver in his publication entitled "Paradoxes of Defense", 1599 in the section entitled "Principles of Fighting". He later clarifies these principles in a second publication entitled "Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defense" in the section entitled "The true handling of all Manner of Weapons".

d) Timing
The student must learn though experience, the best time to move to an advantageous position in an attack. If the movement is too soon, the opponent will anticipate the movement and deploy a counter or adjust his/her attack. Similarly, if the student moves too late, the opponent will be successful in delivering his/her strike or attack at the instant when the student is most vulnerable.

Note: Timing is one of the key elements in the understanding of combative theory, and George Silver explains the principles of timing (true times and false times) in his first publication entitled "Paradoxes of Defense", 1599 in the section entitled "Of Times appertaining unto True Fight and False Fight".

e) Distance
This describes the relative distance between individuals engaged in a fight. The student must learn how to position oneself at a distance that is most advantageous. Adjustments to this distance is continuous during an engagement to ensure that the student maintains the most advantageous range between himself/herself and the opponent.

Note: Distance is another key element in the understanding of combative theory, and George Silver explains the principles of distance in the context of his four grounds that describe the elements of a true fight in his second publication entitled "Brief Instructions upon my Paradoxes of Defense", 1599 in the section entitled "The true handling of all Manner of Weapons". An important piece of Silver's work, and this same section describes in detail, the four governors as they pertain to the application of the grounds to a fight.

f) Momentum
A critical principle that the student must learn to acquire is the understanding of the physics behind the momentum. Momentum describes the bodys tendency, while in motion, to continue in the direction of motion unless acted by another force. The greater the mass or speed of the movement, the greater momentum. This is a key principle that can be effectively employed during longsword attacks, whereby the student can leverage the momentum of an attack, and redirect the momentum behind the strike, and counter (parry) with an attack. This principle applies to other forms of attacks, and provided the student understands the principles behind momentum, the following can be deployed:

Note: Many of Liberi's techniques in grappling, dagger, sword are often described in terms of taking advantage of the force of the attacking opponent to the disadvantage of the opponent. This principle is emphasized in many of the "plays" that describe the deployment of this principle during training.


 

Safety Precautions and Rules of the Salle

In order to prevent injuries or at least reduce the probability of injury during the recruit's training and fencing, the student must conform to the following during training. These precautions are there to not only protect the recruit in training, but the recruit's training partner and the instructor.
  1. The student must follow the instructors direction, instructions and guidance, and if unclear, request clarification.
  2. The student must not get ahead of the instruction, regardless of the skill the student may possess.
  3. The student must offer no resistance and allows each maneuver to be freely executed during training stages to allow for the perfection of the movement.
  4. The student shall be cleared of any jewelry, watches, chains, etc. that might interfere with the drills and possibly result in injury.
  5. The student understands that strikes are to be simulated, especially during the learning stages. It is not important to be quick nor to place any power behind the strikes.
  6. The students must learn to establish a consistent signal to indicate to the partner to stop applying the pressure during training, or to stop delivering sword strikes during training drills.
  7. The student must arrive on-time at practices in order to perform an adequate warm-up prior to practice that includes stretching to reduce the possibility of injury.
  8. The student will ensure that the required protective equipment is worn during training drills.
  9. Periodically, the student must inspect their equipment to ensure that it is kept in optimum condition. If the equipment is deemed unsafe, or not optimal, the instructor will terminate the training for that student which requires the equipment.
  10. The student must abide by the Rules of the Salle d'Armes while on the premises.


[ 1 ] Reference: Some of the material found in the basic principles and safety precautions of the recruit training has been sourced from the US Army Field Training Manual, No. 3-25.150, Washington, 2002. It has been augmented to reflect the historical martial arts nature of the recruit training.


 

Warm-ups and Conditioning

"Therefore let every man that is desirous to practice this Arte, endeavor himself to get strength and agility of body, assuring himself, that judgement without this activity and force, avails little or nothing." Giacomo di Grassi, 1570.

Warm-ups
Before the recruit begins to train, the student must be prepared for the upcoming physical training. The warm-ups purpose is to gradually increase the internal temperature of the body and heart rate. Students before starting the training class are encouraged to stretch which prepares the ligaments, tendons and muscles and heart for a workout, decreasing the chances of injury. By warming up prior to starting practice, allows for maximum use of training time for conditioning and skills development.

For the convenience of the student, the five warm-up stretches described below will provide adequate pre-practice warm-ups. These can be accomplished without a partner as well. The material presented is sourced from the US Army Field Training Manual, No. 3-25.150, Washington, 2002.

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(1) Backroll Stretch.
(a) Position. Lay on ground on back with legs extended and arms by sides, palms down.
(b) Action. Raise legs over head and roll back as far as possible, trying to place toes on the ground behind head. Keep knees locked and feet and knees together; hold for 20 seconds. Gradually return to starting position. Repeat two or three times.

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(2) Buddy-Assisted Splits (Leg Spreader).
(a) Position. Sit on ground facing buddy with legs extended and spread as far as possible. Position feet inside ankles of buddy.
(b) Action. Interlock hands with buddy and alternate pulling one toward the other, causing the buddy to bend forward over the hips until a stretch is felt. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then alternate and have him pull you into a stretch. Do sequence two or three times.

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(3) Buddy-Assisted Hamstring Stretch.
(a) Position. Sit on ground with right leg extended to front and foot pointing up. Bend left leg with sole touching to inside of the right thigh. Have buddy kneel behind you with his hands on your shoulders.
(b) Action. Slowly bend forward from hips over the right leg and reach your hands toward ankles until stretch is felt. Hold this for 10 to 15 seconds. The buddy then applies downward pressure and allows you to adjust your stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat. Alternate legs and positions after two or three sequences.

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(4) Buddy-Assisted Groin (Butterfly) Stretch.
(a) Position. Sit on ground with the soles of your feet together, close to the torso. Hold ankles with hands. Have buddy kneel behind you with his hands on your knees.
(b) Action. The buddy places his hands on top of your thighs at the knees. The buddy's weight is supported by your shoulders while little weight is placed on the thighs. Then, the buddy increases downward pressure on your thighs until stretch is felt. Hold for 20 seconds, then alternate positions.

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(5) Buddy-Assisted Back Stretch.
(a) Position. Stand back-to-back with buddy and interlock arms at your sides.
(b) Action. Bend forward at the waist and pull buddy up on your back over your hips. The buddy allows his back to arch and tells you when an adequate stretch is felt. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then, change places.

Conditioning
The beginning of each class, the students peform a variety of conditioning exercises for up to 25 minutes. The purpose of such conditioning is that it focuses on enhancing one's overall strength, flexibility and endurance - loosely called "combative conditioning". Some benefits of the additional training activities can enhance the student's ability to fight with increased performance in terms of physical conditioning and endurance, and therefore, maintain one's enhanced focus during the engagements.

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(1) Hindu squats.
"Hindu squats lay the foundation for strength and endurance. They build lung power, as well as the thighs, lower back, calves, chest, shoulders and arms. The deep breathing that you do with this exercise, all by itself, will expand the chest and make it larger and more prominent. Additionally, Hindu squats develop balance and coordination." - Matt Furey

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(2) Hindu Pushups.
"Hindu pushups are the second component of the Combat Conditioning program. They build strength throughout the torso and arms. The arch involved in this movement also stretches and strengthens the spine, hips and shoulders." - Matt Furey

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(3) Back Bridge.
"As great and important as Hindu squats and Hindu pushups are, however, the KING of all Combat Conditioning exercises is the back bridge. It exercises the entire body from head to toe. Many people mistakenly think the back bridge is bad for your neck. The exact opposite is usually true and scores of Combat Conditioning students have proven this. Those who do not have current injuries to the cervical vertebrae, will find the back bridge strengthening the neck, back, thighs, hips and buttocks like nothing else." - Matt Furey

The above conditioning exercises form only a portion of the exercises performed at the beginning of each training class. Other conditioning oriented exercises include situps, striders, wheel-barrow, etc. The exercises may change periodically, however, the "royal three" are part of every conditioning exercise session.

It is recommended that the recruit also augment their training with workouts external to the training session that focus on cardio and muscle development. These are not included as part of the training program due to limitations of time. Martial arts training is a life-style choice, and extends beyond the periodic 2-hour training session. External training suggestions are described in Aerobic Training and Weight Training.


 

Training Discipline and Culture

Discipline
The medieval martial arts techniques described in the recruit training are sourced from historical treatises and were designed to be effective in both civilian and combat situations intended to injure, debilitate or kill an opponent. The skills learned are in most cases, deadly, and therefore require a degree discipline that manifests itself in a number of manners. The recruit will learn not only combative defensive and offensive techniques, but must also demonstrate control and discipline during both training and during every day life external to training. During training, the students must listen and practice as per instructions of the instructor at all times. This is not only to prevent injury of the student, but also prevent injury to the student's training partner and instructors as well. Recruits which have difficulty in exhibiting control and discipline will most likely, not succeed in achieving the scholler rank. Training is training and not competition, training is focused during the training sessions at the salle d'armes and not a social club. After formalizerd training, students can engage in social activities and discussions with moderation at the salle.

Some of the more important elements of discipline is listed below. These are reflected in the Safety Precautions listed above and the Rules of the Salle.

  1. The student must follow the instructors direction, instructions and guidance, and if unclear, request clarification.
  2. The student must not get ahead of the instruction, regardless of the skill the student may possess.
  3. The student must offer no resistance and allows each maneuver to be freely executed during training stages to allow for the perfection of the movement.
  4. The student understands that strikes are to be simulated, especially during the learning stages. It is not important to be quick nor to place any power behind the strikes.
  5. The students must learn to establish a consistent signal to indicate to the partner to stop applying the pressure during training, or to stop delivering sword strikes during training drills.
  6. The student must arrive on-time at practices in order to perform an adequate warm-up prior to practice that includes stretching to reduce the possibility of injury.
Culture
Culture is a natural development in any organization. A conservative and disciplined training paradigm will produce martial artists that not only possess deadly skills, but also individuals that have a schollerly approach to combat through their development of an appreciation for the history, principles and philosophies surrounding the medieval martial arts. For the purpose of promoting a traditional culture within the academy, a formal opening and closure of the training session is conducted at each and every training session. This is done by all recruits and participants in the training session. Other elements of culture that evolves is the salutation or greeting of each student upon arrival and the recognition and show of respect towards the instructors by the students.

A particularly noticeable "development" at AEMMA, is the opening and closing of the training sessions. The opening serves to introduce all students, whether recruit, scholler, free scholler, instructor to everyone participating in the training session. It also indicates the formalized opening of a training session and therefore, all rules of the armes d'salle apply as do the expected discplinary behaviour of the students. The closure signals the end of the formalized training. It is only after this point that any social activities can be invoked.


 

Of abrazare, daga e spada

The principle source and foundation for the recruit level of training is Fiori dei Liberi's "Flos Duellatorum" [ 2 ] . The reason that Fiore dei Liberi's treatise was selected as the principal source is that it is viewed as being the most comprehensive description of a complete martial arts training system recorded in the period, and therefore, the recruit training program is designed to imitate this system. To that end, the recruit training program includes three core components of training:

The abrazare or grappling component of the recruit training will develop the student's sense of distance, timing, footwork and confidence in hand-to-hand form of combat. Techniques learned include evades, throws, arm bars and locks. Liberi's students would train abrazare for possibly years before gripping the sword in training because he used the grappling for not only developing the student's fighting skills, but also as a "filter mechanism" in which those who were truly not interested in training in the art of swordsmanship, would not be interested in training in the core fundamentals that grappling offers. However, at AEMMA, the three components listed are offered concurrently, with each practice focused on one of the components and rotated through the practice sessions.

The daga or dagger training leverages the techniques and skills developed in abrazare training with the introduction of a weapon, that being the dagger. All of the principles learned through abrazare is leveraged to dagger training. Other fighting attributes are further emphasized such as distance, timing and place. With the weapon, the students are now spaced a bit further apart as compared to fighting hand-to-hand in abrazare. The weapon adds a degree of complexity to the fight thus enhancing the student's skills with respect to the combative principles of fighting.

The last component covering spada or sword introduces the second weapon in the recruit's repertoire, that being the arming sword. The arming sword was carried by individuals in the period to provide them defense in a civilian environment. The arming sword usually accompanied with a dagger were worn as part of the normal day-to-day wear of the period. The arming sword is a single-handed weapon and provides the maximum instructional benefits in terms of the student's developing their sense of timing and distance and other core fencing concepts.

Click core training components or select from the drop-down menu across the top navigation bar, to read greater detail on the recruit level of training on abrazare, daga e spada.


 

Training Drills and More Drills

Drills are a training tool used to introduce the recruit to limited and structured repetitive exercises/movements with and/or without weapons designed to isolate and re-enforce certain fighting elements/skills learned during the recruit's training. The design of the drills employed provides the recruit with the opportunity to apply the techniques learned physically and tune the deployment of those techniques in an iterative manner combined with instructor's input and repetitive execution. Drills come in two forms, single drills (without a training partner) and pairs drills (with a training partner).

Single Drills
The recruit training includes a number of single drills designed to isolate certain elements of the training, and help the student develop the technical skill being learned through the physical action of deploying the specific elements. Some of the drills are described below:

Pairs Drills
The objectives of pairs drills are exactly the same as for the single drills, the only difference are the designs of the drills and the fact that the drills are executed using a pair of students. A brief description of a few of the pairs drills are listed below.


 

Free-play, Loose-play, Sparring and Fencing

An effective way of internalizing the deployment of the techniques and principles learned during training from "slow-time" to "real-time", is to use a vareity of "tools" such as sparring, loose-play and free-play fencing to develop the necessary skills in a relatively random situation, which simulates a "true" fight. The employment of free-play has been an argument within the martial arts communities for generations, as to whether there are benefits from permitting free-play amongst students. However, AEMMA has devised a number of variations of "free-play" which offer degrees of freedom from a limited "free-play" (i.e. loose-play) to non-competitive free-play to competitive free-play. Loose-play are practice bouts which are limited to a suite of techniques, such as in a swordplay, all strikes are limited to be delivered from overhead, or are limited to thrusts, however, they can be delivered at random, and from any posta. These loose-plays enable the students to work on particular fighting attributes, by isolating the concept or technique and being able to focus on that concept or technique within a limited "free-play" bout. Varying degrees of loose-play is considered during the training whereby the techniques and concepts permitted are opened up to include more, and therefore, the training bouts approach more closely to a free-play bout. Non-competitive free-play is essentially a free-play bout, but is designed to allow the student to focus on a particular fighting attribute such as distance or timing or combination. There are no "winners" or "losers" in these forms of bouts.

Sparring plays for grappling facilitate the recruits ability to deploy the grappling techniques to their logical conclusion, however, care is taken to ensure injuries do not occur in these loose-play exercises. Non-competitive free-play bouts provide the opportunity to engage the students in physical conflict without the danger and potential injuries which may arise a competitive bout.


 

Additional Training Activities

In addition to developing foundational historical European martial skills during the recruit training in order to prepare the student for their challenge for the prize of scholler", it is recommended that the student also engage in additional training activities over and above the 20-30 minutes of conditioning training received during class. The purpose of such conditioning is that it focuses on enhancing one's overall strength, flexibility and endurance - loosely called "combative conditioning". The benefit of the additional training activities described below is that the student is able to fight with increased performance in terms of physical conditioning and therefore, maintain one's enhanced focus during the engagements. Being able to engage in bouts for longer periods with improved stamina results in greater probabilities of opportunities to surface and thereby be in an improved state to take advantage of the errors made by the opponent as the opponent grows fatiqued, especially in the area of grappling and giocco stretto (close-play) fighting.

Another useful training activity is the usage of one or more different pells for the purpose of honing swordsmanship skills from an individual training perspective. A pell is essentially a training tool that offers the practitioner with a solid object that approximates a human being in one or more attributes. Pells have been used throughout martial history for the purpose of honing their martial skills. This applies to historical European martial arts as well. The student must be reminded that practicing with pells does not displace instructional and structural training offered in a classroom environment.


For more details on the recruit core training components, click ==> here or select from the drop-down menu across the top navigation bar.


Copyright © 2000 Academy of European Medieval Martial Arts  (AEMMA)
Released: November 09, 1998 / Last modified: October 17, 2009